Promotional Consultation?? – Is it ever justifiable to use consultation as a means of putting a neglected subject on the public agenda?
The theory is pretty unequivocal. You normally go to consultation where there are decisions to be taken, policies to be adopted or programmes to be developed, and where stakeholder views can be expected to exert influence. There are few exceptions to this, but is this one of them?
Try this little test. Switch on Radio 4’s Today programme when you wake up, and estimate how long you have to wait before the word consultation is used. It won’t be very long! Here is proof positive that publishing a consultation exercise works as an agenda-setting device, far more potent than the press release!
The Government has clearly found this to be useful, and regularly uses such exercises to fly some policy kite or other; if the purpose is to stimulate debate, it undoubtedly works, and many an otherwise-obscure policy area has got the full force of John Humphrys’ forensic attention on more than one occasion. Indeed, a consultation is a Press Officer’s delight, for it offers publicity opportunities at its announcement, when key stakeholders contribute, when the consultation closes and when the feedback is published. As a news story, it automatically replenishes ….wonderful!